There was a fantastic TV show called Ready Steady Go, which I don’t think has ever been bettered. Dusty Springfield was on it a lot, and she got hip and kind of discovered Tamla Motown and soul and Stax music.
Playing live, you’d see Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, and Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, and Sam Cooke, and Otis Redding. It was fantastic. What’s not to like?
All those songs they wrote, it was a good yardstick for me. They’re all kind of like mini operas. As well as being a perfect slice of three minute pop they were all about something. They weren’t all, ‘bring down a government’, but you could really nail what the topic of the song was about.
That’s important in song writing: to be clear and concise and sum it up in three minutes. That’s what I always try to do. Whether I succeed or not is another matter. But I have written a few. I think that’s where it comes from.
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Iggy Pop and Bowie live in Aylesbury
Certainly one of the best gigs that I ever saw was the tour for Iggy Pop’s The Idiot. His band was Hunt and Tony Sales as the rhythm section… I think it was Scott Thurston on guitar, and David Bowie playing the piano with a pot plant on it and a pint of beer. That was great.
He was playing in London but they did a warm up gig at Friars in Aylesbury. Nearly all of the punks in town went out to that. I drove there, in my little sports car with my girlfriend at the time, with the bass player from the Heartbreakers, Billy Rath. He spent all the time trying to chat up my girlfriend – in my car!
At the gig there was this fantastic, good looking girl in silver, skin-tight leather trousers prancing around. She soon ended up in London after that. It was Magenta Devine. She’d been going out with John Otway, who lived in Aylesbury. So it all kind of intermingled somehow.
The gig was great. To see Bowie playing piano when he didn’t have to, but wanted to, was kind of cool.
Snakebite and Motown in the Bird’s Nest
You know when you’re 15 or 16, and you start going to discotheques? We used to have a chain of places in London called the Bird’s Nest. There was the Chelsea Bird’s Nest, there was the Fulham Bird’s Nest in North End Road.
The girls used to drink Pernod and blackcurrant, and the blokes used to drink snakebite with a shot of blackcurrant on top. Everyone had these black glasses and the ultra violet light would make them look a bit funny.
You’d have a couple of them, and you’re a little bit squiffy at that age. I always found at the top end of my hearing went a bit. The only thing I could really hear was the bassline.
That’s when all the Tamla Motown stuff was going on, you know. Especially stuff like the Temptations’ Psychedelic Shack, Ball of Confusion and Edwin Starr – War. I’d pick up on that. That’s what I liked. There’s lots of little things that add up to what you’re doing.
Playing with the Faces
The Faces’ Long Player was one of the very first albums I bought myself. I bought it because the cover is like a facsimile of an old 78 record. It’s even got real stitching down it. Then I got into it.
I actually ended up playing with the Faces. So that was my all-time favourite band and I was in them for a bit. And I got paid for it!
I learned to play the bass by playing along with Ronnie Lane’s parts, but what got me the gig was that I became friends with Ian McLagan, the keyboard player. He actually played with my band, the Rich Kids, and did a tour with us.
I said to him, “Look, if you’re going to reform your band, you know that I know that you know that I’m the right bloke for the job. So put a word in for us.” And he did.
As things evolved, he said, “Glen, are you sure you’re up for this?”
I said, “I learned to play along with these songs, I know these songs backwards…”
He went, “Oh great.”
I said, “It’s just forwards I struggle with.” He laughed. And that got me the gig more than anything.
Glen Matlock is currently on tour around the UK. Tickets available at www.glenmatlock.co.uk.